I’ve been thinking about yesterday’s entry and I feel like it could’ve been better. I feel like it’s good and all, I took a shot at it and that’s a good thing, but, I dunno, maybe if I’d put a little more effort into it, thought through a couple of the ideas a little more rigorously, really kind of held my own feet to the fire on a few of the more difficult points, it might’ve really helped the piece overall. I can’t really put my finger on it—I just wonder if, you know, the bar is kinda down here when it really ought to be up there somewhere, if you know what I mean.
Like that bit about Washoe. That really hit me back in the fall. Mother of three dies at 42. The kids asking all these difficult questions about death. And then the woman being interviewed with her patronizing attitude towards the chimps. It got me thinking about the nature of God and how, to Washoe, her keepers must’ve been like deities, maybe like the Greek gods—sharing the planet, able to be comrades at times, but essentially superior, the ones who open and close the doors, the ones who answer the questions, the ones we always work to please even when we don’t understand the challenge. “I'm sorry? What? Make a counterclockwise circle with the right hand flat over the heart? Ok, lady, you keep the bananas coming and I’m on it.”
If you can put yourself in their shoes—well, actually, ok, funny, they don’t have shoes—but imagine they did, then put yourself in them and you can see how, faced with phenomena you can’t understand, you might resort to spiritual or supernatural explanations. Having a wrong answer, in other words, might be more acceptable than admitting you have no answer.
I got to thinking there must be some simple lesson in there for us but I could not figure it out. I asked God to help me, but He couldn’t figure it out either, or at least he kept very quiet on the subject. So I sat on the whole Washoe anecdote for almost five months, all the while feeling like it was just gold for the blog if I could only puzzle out how to spin it. But in the end, writing nothing was more unsupportable than writing something, so I went with something.
Did I go back to the NPR archives to find out exactly what the chimp lady said? No. I could’ve, but I didn’t. Did I go back to Season One, Disc Two to get Div’s crazy, early-morning tape-recorded rant right word for word? No. In fact, I’ve lost disc two of season one. But that’s a tangent. That’s an excuse.
The real point is, I could’ve done more to make yesterday’s entry great. And I didn’t. I have to live with that.